Glaucoma Awareness Month is a Great Time for Eye Exam

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is a great time to look after your health – and your eyes – during National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

It’s estimated that half of those with Glaucoma do not know they have the disease – that’s over one million people in the US. Glaucoma is characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve that can cause irreversible damage if not discovered early.

“Glaucoma is a stealth disease that initially causes no symptoms. The slow loss of vision is barely perceptible,” says Karen Todd, MD, Glaucoma Fellowship Ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Institute. “Certain factors put you at risk, such as family history and age. But, the only way to definitively discover Glaucoma is with a comprehensive eye exam,” she emphasizes.

There are two major types of glaucoma, Open-Angle, and Closed Angle.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Primary Open-Angle is the most common type of glaucoma. It happens gradually, where the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should (like a clogged drain). As a result, eye pressure builds and starts to damage the optic nerve. Damage can occur even at normal pressures due to sensitivity of the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma is painless and causes no vision changes at first.

Closed-Angle glaucoma, or narrow-angle glaucoma, happens when the iris is very close to the drainage angle in their eye. The iris can end up blocking the drainage angle. You can think of it like a piece of paper sliding over a sink drain. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly. This is called an acute attack. It is a true eye emergency, and you should be treated immediately by an ophthalmologist.

Signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack:

  • Vision is suddenly blurry
  • Severe eye painFEI_Glaucoma-Month_2019
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seeing colored rings or halos around lights

Many people with angle-closure glaucoma develop it slowly. This is called chronic angle-closure glaucoma. There are no symptoms at first, so they don’t know they have it until the damage is severe or they have an attack.

Dr. Todd reminds people that “both types of glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated early. That’s why we encourage all patients to have an annual exam to monitor for signs of the disease, especially if over the age of 60.”

Florida Eye Institute, a multi-specialty ophthalmology center, has offices in Vero Beach and Sebastian. Contact 772.569-9500 or visit www.fleye.com for more information.

Information provided by Florida Eye Institute and American Academy of Ophthalmology.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Add a comprehensive eye exam to your list of healthy resolution

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye physicians dedicated to the advanced treatment of eye disease.

If you are confused about Glaucoma and what it is, you are not alone. Glaucoma is one of the most damaging and insidious eye conditions because it often begins without warning. It’s estimated that nearly 3 million adults in the U.S. have Glaucoma, yet only half of those know they have it. That’s a scary thought because Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in America and can affect anyone of any age.

Technically, Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that lead to progressive damage of the Optic Nerve. Think of the Optic Nerve as a cable, carrying vital visual signals and information to the brain. If fibers become damaged, visual signals are disrupted and the picture is lost. Damage to the optic nerve from Glaucoma can result in an irreversible loss – even blindness – if left untreated.

Glaucoma begins by attacking the periphery, causing vision on the outermost corners to diminish. Early results are barely perceptible. But glaucoma can accelerate quickly; causing eyesight to rapidly and irreversibly deteriorate. As much as 40% of vision can be lost before a person begins to notice and take action.2

Primary open-angle glaucoma is often called the “the silent thief of vision” because, in early and middle stages, there are usually no noticeable symptoms until irreversible damage has occurred.3 When a person has glaucoma, they often have increased intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. In some cases, glaucoma can be present with normal IOP ranges, referred to as Normal Tension Glaucoma (NTG).

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but certain factors place you at higher risk.4

  • Elevated Intra-Ocular Pressure (IOP)
    Age 40 or above
  • Hispanic or African-American descent
  • Family history – primary open-angle glaucoma is hereditary
  • Medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Current or previous eye injury

Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. This reinforces recommendations by the American Academy of Ophthalmology: adults need regular, comprehensive eye exams.

Medicare and other Insurance plans cover most or all of the cost of a comprehensive exam with an Ophthalmologist, or Eye MD. Ask your eye doctor or insurance company for more information.

References: (1) American Academy of Ophthalmology (aao.org); (2) Alcon (alcon.com); (3) Glaucoma Research Foundation (glaucoma.org); (4) Prevent Blindness (preventblindness.org).